Reflections on Resolutions

My Experience of Shifting Goals

2024 is right around the corner and according to studies conducted in 2007 and 2016, on average only around 9-12% of people who make New Year’s Resolutions actually keep them.

Some of the most common and time-honored resolutions involving weight loss, saving money, exercise and healthier eating are never realized. A 2014 study indicated that 35% of participants who failed to fulfill their New Year’s Resolutions said their goals were unrealistic.

Why are our goals/resolutions so hard to achieve and how do we help our children understand the concept of goal setting?

Goals and resolutions can be pretty tricky. Much of the literature suggests that in order to be successful, goals/resolutions need to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based. Or, perhaps you prefer the WOOP method: Wish/Want, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan.

When I was 12, I announced that my goal was to become a doctor, specifically a surgeon or a psychiatrist, clearly a SMART goal. I adjusted this goal in college when I became more familiar with the concept of primary care and decided family medicine was for me.

When I didn’t get into medical school, I shifted to the WOOP strategy, going to graduate school with the intent of improving my grades. I ended up working as a manager of a family medicine residency clinic, with an “extended, renewed” goal of reapplying to medical school.

Fortunately, working in healthcare enabled me to realize that being a doctor was something I no longer wanted to do. I finally recognized that all the advice I had been given (but ignored) about abandoning my goal should have been heeded.

So, how do we encourage our children to set goals and perhaps let them go or adjust them when it’s clear they are not achievable and/or are no longer in their best interest?

What I learned from advising college students over the years is that what’s most important is to allow them to set their own goals. This is true for children, as well. With some carefully crafted guidance, parents can certainly provide support in this goal setting by suggesting that the child break the goal into smaller pieces and plan for possible bumps in the road. Again, the goal needs to be owned and embraced by the child.

Perhaps what might work best over the next few days as you and your child do your Legends workouts is to talk about some resolutions/goals for the new year, setting them together while agreeing to be “accountability buddies.” Frankly, as with so many effective parenting strategies, role modeling is the key!

With that in mind, I hope you and your family have a Legend(ary) resolution-setting extravaganza as you welcome the new year!

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